By Arved Ashby
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Such a situation would seem to demand, by way of compensation, an increasingly speciﬁc semiotics of performance, an increase in the interpreter’s aesthetic and ontological authority. One could also describe the situation in terms of literacies: art music involves two literacies, a literacy in performance and a literacy in hearing, with the former presuming the latter but the latter not necessarily involving the former. In this context, we could say art music has become a unique cultural phenomenon in that the two texts it involves—the means of transmitting the work, and the musical countenance immediately presented to the listener—have drifted farther and farther apart as musical literacy has changed.
21 It is worthy of ﬁction that such an international spectacle could emerge from an unknown musician essaying a then-obscure composition. But that relative obscurity served to enable this Bach-Gould paradigmatic text, and it is hard to imagine such an inﬂuential performance as the “Gouldbergs”—as the pianist himself jokingly dubbed the record—originating in different circumstances.
But there’s no room for this in Kramer’s thinking, an ontology where meaning lies intrinsically, unchangingly, and synonymously with the work—the ﬁrst and ﬁnal determinant of signiﬁcance. He believes this is true even of the mediated musical experience, where the machinery ultimately serves to focus our attention retrospectively on those musical meanings enshrined in aged works. He talks brieﬂy about ﬁlm and soundtracks, speciﬁcally Bach’s G Major Cello Suite as it appears in both Peter Weir’s Master and Commander and Roman Polanski’s The Pianist.